Exporting is practical and profitable, and it is not just for the giant corporations, but it is also for firms with limited resources. In fact, almost any U. S. firm with a good product or service to sell has a real export potential. Last month I talked about why you should be looking at a global market for your company. This month I will attempt to show you how easy it is to increase your potential customer base.
There are two simple reasons why manufacturers should consider exporting: more profits for themselves and more jobs for America. But more than this, exporting broadens the manufacturer's marketing base and generally results in greater company growth. It directly contributes to a healthier economy and helps strengthen our country's international trading position. Since you are reading this, you probably have at least a hesitant interest in exporting. If you are like many small manufacturers, you already recognize the growth potential offered by foreign markets and are seeking assistance in starting.
The five steps that we discuss with our clients who are getting started in the international arena are education and the importance of export counseling, the selection of which markets to attack first, an export marketing strategy, organization, and channels of distribution.
This column is meant to offer a "road map" to assist you in this new journey. As you will see, the small size of your company or your lack of export experience is not an obstacle. In fact, three out of every five American exporters have less than 100 employees.
The initial steps toward establishing the international side of your business are in many ways the most difficult, simply because you lack experience. Many highly successful firms comfortable with their positions in the domestic market are uncertain where to begin when it comes to overseas activity. For these reasons, it is important to get assistance in the beginning. Fortunately, many sources are available in the public and private sectors, such as the U.S. Department of Commerce District Office, district export councils, state development agencies, commercial banks and industrial trade associations.
The initial assessment process, guided by expert counseling, will indicate whether your firm has export potential. The next step will be to select one or two ideal markets. Obviously, this choice will have an immediate impact on the organization of the export operation. Language and cultural differences, special trade regulations, local competition and economic conditions all must be taken into account.
In general, a successful export marketing strategy identifies at least four factors that determine the ideal kind of export operation. They are objectives, both immediate and long range; specific tactics, such as methods of distribution; scheduling of activities and deadlines that reflect objectives and tactics; and allocation of resources.
While investigating and selecting foreign markets for your product, you will also want to plan and organize your export operation. In fact, these two activities must generally be handled concurrently since they largely support and influence each other. Because business conditions and government regulations vary from country to country, your choice of markets will be an important factor in determining your export policy and in mobilizing your resources for market entry.
After all the strategy sessions, it all comes down to the sale. It is extremely important that you evaluate the culture of your targeted market. Who are the competitors? How do they take their product to market? How do other similar U.S. companies come to market? Then you get on the airplane and go to the market.